Michael Carter-Williams hospitalized with bacterial infection

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So, I had this whole thing written and ready about how Sixers coach Brett Brown doesn’t believe that Michael Carter-Williams is injury-prone, despite the fact that after sitting out Saturday, the rookie will have missed six of his team’s first 21 games.

But then the news broke that Carter-Williams had been hospitalized with a bacterial infection on his right knee, so let’s get to that before the other, now less-relevant injury stuff is discussed below.

From Jason Wolf of Delaware Online:

Michael Carter-Williams, a front-runner for NBA rookie of the year, is spending his third consecutive night at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with a skin infection on the front of his right knee, according to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The infection is bacterial and now under control, according to a source close to the situation. The 6-5 point guard is under the care of Sixers team physician Dr. Brian Sennett and infectious disease specialist Dr. Neil Fishman.

“It’s a right knee infection that really is just being monitored closely, but nothing to really get too overly concerned with,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Thankfully this doesn’t seem too severe, though there is no timetable for Carter-Williams to return.

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Michael Carter-Williams is the early leader for Rookie of the Year honors, with his play in the early part of the season being almost as stellar as it is surprising.

He’s missed significant time due to injuries, however — five of his team’s first 20 games, with a sixth likely to come on Saturday — and that’s led some to wonder if the young and slender guard may be injury-prone, and limited by that fact as his career progresses.

But Sixers head coach Brett Brown isn’t buying into all that just yet. He believes it’s been more bad luck and unfortunate circumstances that have led to Carter-Williams’ injuries, and is willing to give his star rookie the benefit of the doubt.

From Christopher A. Vito of The Reporter Online:

Brown does not view the injuries to Carter-Williams, the latest of which prompted the Sixers to keep him from traveling with the team, as an ongoing trend.

“Some of it is related to bad luck. Some of it is his body and (he’s) young and (playing) big minutes and other things,” Brown said of Carter-Williams. “I’m sticking more with luck than a trend. I think his competitiveness and his toughness is a good thing where he’ll learn to get through some things as time unfolds. But these recent things, he should be sat. He should be left at home.”

“We all wish we was playing, and so does he. It’s not something that you look at as a negative. It’s a series of bad-luck and unfortunate circumstances,” Brown said. “Ultimately those people that can play and avoid injuries, it’s an interesting statistic or part of persevering with people, re-signing people, chasing in a free-agent market, determining somebody’s worth. That’s bottom-line stuff, how many games in a long period of time do they normally miss?

“Some people fall into that too-high-a-risk basket. For Michael, this is all early days and part of the process. I’m leaning on his toughness and his competitiveness. Whenever anything minor comes up, he’ll be there.”

There are a couple of factors in play here.

First of all, Carter-Williams needs to pack some muscle onto his 6’6″ frame that carries a listed weight of just 185 pounds. And it’s more than likely that he will — that’s a legitimate knock on many young players entering the league, and hitting the weight room over the next couple of summers will easily fix that.

More importantly, despite the Sixers having some early-season success, the reality is that they were expected to be the worst team in the league; the fact that they’re sitting at 7-13 and just two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East doesn’t change the organizational plan.

There’s no rush for Carter-Williams to return to this team, and you can bet that with the franchise taking a long-term view of things, they’ll hold him out if he’s being bothered by any injury in the slightest — making Brown’s opinion on the matter more than likely to be the accurate one at this very early stage of his star-in-the-making’s career.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”

As expected, likely top-three pick Luka Doncic files to enter NBA draft

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Luka Doncic — the 6’8″ point forward who is putting up impressive numbers against men at the highest levels of European basketball — is bringing is game to the NBA. As expected.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the expected is now official.

Doncic, 19, submitted draft paperwork this week to formally enter his name, league sources said. Doncic is arguably the most decorated European player to make a jump to the NBA, a wunderkind who’s been playing in the EuroLeague since 2015. He is currently leading Real Madrid in the EuroLeague playoffs, averaging 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists this season.

The 6-foot-7 Doncic has the ability to play multiple positions, from being a primary ball-handler to shooting and playmaking off the ball. His season in Europe could continue into late May or June. NBA executives have long been intrigued by Doncic’s potential stardom, and several are continuing to make scouting trips for him.

Doncic is expected to go in the top three (likely the top two) come this June’s draft.

If you’re about to bring up Darko Milicic or some other European bust, just stop. This Slovenian has proven he can play — in 54 games this season between Liga ACB (Spain’s league, second best in the NBA) and the Euroleague, Doncic is averaging 14.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists a game. He has shown a gift for passing that should blossom in the more open play of the NBA, plus he just knows how to run a team and make plays. He can score when called upon and has three-point range, can shoot off the bounce, and if you switch a smaller guy onto him, Doncic can just post him up.

He’s not going to be a bust.

However, what his ceiling is remains the debate. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards who has struggled at points for Real Madrid when guarded by borderline-NBA level Americans in Europe. Can he defend at the NBA level? Can he be consistent with his jumper? He may be elite, but it’s no given.

He’s going to be good, and his floor is higher than a lot of the other top prospects in this draft class. However, if a GM thinks that Marvin Bagley III or Mohamed Bamba both have a higher ceiling and can reach it, they may go with the Americans. Doncic is going to put some GMs in an interesting position.